TALLAHASSEE — The agency that oversees the developmentally disabled will be led by a former state representative after Gov. Rick Scott made a leadership change on Friday.
Carl Littlefield replaces Jim DeBeaugrine as director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Littlefield had served under DeBeaugrine as an area administrator overseeing De Soto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
The Agency for Persons with Disabilities was featured in a December St. Petersburg Times story about a controversial Seffner group home that housed men with severe behavior problems, including sex offenders, and permitted sex between the residents. In at least one instance, staff viewed sex between peers as part of a therapeutic program. But internal reports from the center also documented one incident in which staff interrupted a sexual encounter that they characterized as rape.
Littlefield, 62, represented east Pasco in the Florida House from 1992 to 1998. He was assistant secretary of developmental disabilities at the Department of Children and Families from 1999 to 2001. That year he was named Tampa Bay area director, the job he held until Friday.
He also worked as a deputy secretary at the state Department of Elder Affairs, served as Florida's first chairman of the Health and Family Services Council, and as a member of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Florida Public Health Foundation and as state representative to the President's Council on Mental Retardation.
"Carl has a long history of public service to Floridians with disabilities and his experiences as a state legislator and agency executive will serve APD well," Scott said in a statement.
Littlefield did not return a request for comment through an agency spokeswoman late Friday. Each year, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities serves more than 35,000 people.
As part of the traditional transition between administrations, DeBeaugrine had submitted his resignation effective Jan. 3 to Scott, but was one of dozens asked to remain on board until a replacement could be found.
A member of Scott's staff called DeBeaugrine on Friday morning to tell him his services were no longer needed, and a call from Scott followed.
"He was very gracious," DeBeaugrine said. "I'm going to probably stick around and make sure that the new person, Carl Littlefield, gets up and running. I go back a long way with Carl. I think he's a fine person, and I really wish him luck."'
DeBeaugrine started his career with the state more than 20 years ago, working 19 years as a staff member for the House of Representatives budget committee. He then served for less than a year as deputy director for planning and budget for the Agency for Persons Disabilities before Gov. Charlie Crist tapped him to head the agency in 2008.
Among Littlefield's first duties is facing a legislative hearing Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs that Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, has called to address issues that came out in the Times story.
In 2008, the guardian of a disabled man asked Storms to get her son moved from the Human Development Center in Seffner, which was part of the region Littlefield oversaw. Storms called for a state investigation that stopped a practice, known as "quiet time," in which men could have consensual sex with each other with staff's blessing. The Agency for Persons with Disabilities pledged to move the disabled man and address sexual activity in group homes by crafting a statewide policy or new standards.
More than two years later, Storms, who chairs the Senate committee, wants to know why neither happened. She also has asked the agency if any sanctions were proposed against the Human Development Center and if the state is reviewing how it houses developmentally disabled sex offenders. She wonders how the state can be sure of sexual consent between the developmentally disabled.
Despite the leadership change, Storms said she plans to hold the hearing and will call Littlefield to testify.
"Count on it," she said in a text message Friday.
DeBeaugrine said he's not sure if he'll testify.
"I'll be there if they want me to be, and I won't be if they don't," he said.
Times staff writer Michael C. Bender contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or [email protected]